Empowered communities or "cheap labour"? Engaging volunteers in the rationalised management of invasive alien species in Great Britain

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Volunteers are increasingly involved in the delivery of nature conservation policies, usually supported by a twofold rationale: volunteering can (a) enhance citizen participation in environmental governance and (b) ensure a workforce is in place to support conservation work in times of budget shortages. Here, we ask how these two rationales correspond to volunteers' own motivations to engage in a specific nature conservation activity, namely the control of invasive alien species (IAS). We use qualitative interviews with professional project managers, local group leaders, and volunteers to examine the interactions between policies aiming to rationalise the management of IAS and the motivations for and goals of volunteer engagement. Our findings suggest that although volunteering can lead to positive conservation outcomes, satisfying experiences and empowerment, the different interests do not always align in practice. We investigate the implications of strategies that aim to improve the efficiency of invasive species and volunteer management, and discuss organisational arrangements that reconcile different objectives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-111
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Early online date9 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019



  • Journal Article
  • invasive alien species
  • grey squirrel
  • Himalayan balsam
  • American mink
  • volunteer engagement
  • neoliberalism

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